With the passing of dear Mary Shumate, who lived and loved the house and yard I’ve lived in 16 years, I’ve been appreciating her handiwork with a sharper eye. She and her dear husband Stuart built this house and fashioned this yard starting in 1955.

Mary's garden still grows.

It helps that the lamium and azaleas and vinca and phlox and dogwoods are all blooming exuberantly, and that I finished clearing the paths she and Stuart laid out and lined with cobbles decades ago and lined them with pine straw the past week. I tell myself it doesn’t much matter what’s going on on either side of the path as long as it looks well-tended. It’s not true, I know, but thank goodness the phlox are bobbing along here and there to take one’s eye off the ivy explosion. If it is a sin to plant English Ivy, that’s on her, God–not me! She just kept it under control better than I do. I’ll take the heat for that.

A good path to follow

During the service for her yesterday, her own exuberance was still quite evident since she had planned it–so many references to the natural world: For the Beauty of the Earth and Let All Things Now Living made me smile–which doesn’t often happen to me in church. And then there was the particularly well chosen Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

All that she planted and plucked, all those stones she lugged up from the creek, all the banks she built up, all the times she made her kids and grandchildren hate the gully (since she made them weed it for 5 cents a bushel, I heard yesterday! I offered them a quarter), and all the love of beauty she shared–they’re all evident right outside my window. And I am so grateful to be able to see her hand and eye at work still–even if I can’t keep the yard up to her standards.

Not sure she was much for keeping silence, but it was so much fun to listen to her that I think she was the exception to that rule. I’m happy to hear her voice in my head through the seasons.

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